The first time I had my own travel car was in New Zealand, back in 2014.
It was a tiny little Mazda that I bought for $1500 from a guy called Dave.
The ‘Danny-mobile’, as it became lovingly known, was falling apart at the seams. The front seats wiggled. The electric windows jammed open. The inner door was falling off.
Honestly, it was on its last legs from the very start.
But I loved it! The Danny-Mobile ferried me around the entire country and provided me with some unforgettable experiences.
It was an absolute trooper.
…right up until it broke down catastrophically up a tiny dirt road on south island. Even then it got back up and running. But it was never the same again!
Travelling with that car was truly epic. Clearly, though, it wasn’t without its downsides.
Interestingly, the same has held true on all of my adventures with cars since. There are always pros and cons of cars when travelling.
Are you thinking of getting a car for your next adventure? This post may be of interest!
Keep reading for a complete list of all the advantages and disadvantages of travelling by car.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Travelling by Car: Top Pros & Cons of Cars While Travelling
Here we go then: all the key pros and cons of hitting the road by car.
Top Advantages to Travelling By Car
I thought I’d start with the good stuff. These advantages to travelling by car are what make the experience so awesome.
1. It’s One Long Road Trip
One of the things I love most about car travel is the fact you’re on one giant road trip.
There’s something cool about it, right?
I can’t hear the words ‘road trip’, without getting all excited. Hitting the road like screams freedom, adventure, and possibility. It’s good vibes and awesome memories.
You know in your bones it’s going to be a special experience.
2. Driving is Fun
If you don’t love driving, then travelling by car is obviously not going to be right for you!
But if, like me, you enjoy being behind the wheel, then it makes for a great experience.
Sometimes it’s as simple as that! When the sun’s out, the sky’s blue, and the road’s clear, it’s hard to beat driving in a new country.
Travelling by car is undeniably convenient too.
I’ve explored countries in all sort of ways now. I’ve hitch-hiked, walked, cycled, and used a lot of public transport. And none of these other forms of transport are, in general, as convenient as going by car.
Travelling isn’t always easy. In fact, there are a bunch of disadvantages to it. Going by car is a great way of simplifying the process.
4. It Opens Up Opportunities
Travel is full of incredible opportunities.
Everywhere you go there is something new to see and do.
But, unfortunately, that incredible thing is often tucked far away down a long dirt road. Or, it’s 20km out of town. Or, it’s just too far away to make in unfeasible.
There’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to access something you know will be awesome. Nine times out of ten, having a car solves this problem.
Indeed, many insane experiences are directly tied to having a car.
In New Zealand, for instance, driving on the endless sands of 90 Mile Beach (one of the best things to do on North Island) was one of my most memorable experiences.
I would have missed out without the car.
5. See More Faster
If time is short, having a vehicle is great.
I went back to New Zealand this year and my dad came out to see me. We borrowed a car from a family friend and spent 2 and a half weeks exploring both islands. We hit the ground running and squeezed in as much as we could.
Of course, cars speed things up. I’m all for taking my time on the road. Often, it’s the process of getting from A to B where the magic happens.
However, sometimes you just need to get to your destination. Having a car facilitates that.
6. Saves Carrying Heavy Bags
Carrying a heavy bag sucks.
Especially over long distances.
Lugging your backpack or suitcase around is rarely pleasant. It may be part of the fun. And it’s definitely part of the backpacking experience. But when you’re going a long way with a hefty pack, it isn’t fun.
It just hurts!
That isn’t a problem in a car. You just whack everything into the boot and you’re good to go.
7. You Can Take More Stuff
I’m always an advocate of taking as little stuff as possible when travelling.
However, there are definitely times when having a little extra comes in handy.
Having a car gives you masses more room to play with. Cooking stoves, cool boxes, oversized sleeping bags, tents, food, more clothes and shoes…It’s amazing how easy it is to fill up a car with stuff!
8. Pick Up Hitch Hikers
This won’t be for everyone.
But if you’re a fan of hitch hiking, then you should always pay it forwards!
Picking up hitch hikers is just a lovely thing to do.
You meet awesome people and do a good deed at the same time. You never know who you might meet (which is the exact problem for some people!). The vast majority will have interesting stories to tell. They can be awesome company for long and lonely car journeys
Nicely, you get some karma points too. The next time you hitch you’re sure to get a ride straight away…
9. It’s Relatively Inexpensive (Sometimes)
This won’t always be the case.
But, hiring or buying a car can turn into an inexpensive means of travel.
For example, many places are only accessible by vehicle. That means the epic tourist destination you absolutely have to see, has to be reached by road.
That can be the case in other ways too. For instance, many tour companies sell hop on hop off style tickets to explore a country. You buy one ticket and use it whenever you want to get to your next destination. And they’re really bloody expensive.
Oftentimes you can literally buy a car for less money.
Equally, if you’re willing to sleep in your car then that saves on accommodation costs. Splitting costs between people is a great way to go. Two or three friends could team up and buy a van. That’s a bed on wheels for as long as they need it!
The financial savings stack up quickly.
Top Tip: Advantages of Owning a Car While Travelling
I thought I’d take a moment to talk about the benefits of owning a car on the road too.
Of course, hiring a car is one option. And all the advantages above apply. However, buying the car creates its own additional set of benefits.
They primary advantage is in terms of cost.
Imagine splitting it between people. Two or three friends could team up and buy a van. That’s a bed on wheels for as long as they need it! This immediately cuts accommodation costs.
Oh, and when the trip’s all done, if all goes to plan, they simply sell it on and get their money back. It’s one big financial win.
The same applies for cars. You could buy a car yourself and reap all the same benefits.
Of course, the selling process can be a hassle. And there’s no guarantee you’ll get as much for it as you bought it for. The Danny-Mobile I mentioned at the start is a prime example.
After it broke down, I ended up selling it for $500. That was only 2 months after buying it for $1500! That wasn’t a great day. But, obviously, that won’t always be the case.
Top Disadvantages of Cars While Travelling
Okay, on to the disadvantages of cars while travelling. Here are the major cons I’ve come across when travelling with cars.
1. Risk of Accidents
As we all know, accidents happen.
And, when you’re driving in foreign countries, the likelihood of having one can go up.
You might be driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. The road layouts, junctions and interchanges can be different. The road signs can be confusing. Other road users can drive differently to what you’re used to.
The terrain might be different too. You might normally drive on long straight, well-maintained roads. Those in other countries may be poorly-kept, steep, and winding.
The last thing you want is to have a car accident while travelling.
2. Financial Risk
Driving a car overseas can be expensive too.
It doesn’t have to be, but in worst case scenarios it can end up that way.
Now, I don’t think I could have done nearly as much without it for that amount of money. So, I wasn’t too bothered.
And, frankly, given the state it was in when I sold it, I was pleased to get anything!
However, in an ideal world I would have sold it for the same amount as I paid.
Equally, other costs can stack up too when you’re driving overseas. There’s gas money of course, then insurance costs, and potential fines you might get (speeding tickets, parking fines and so on).
Other expenses come into play too. For example, taking your car onto ferries requires you to pay for the privilege. Foot passengers pay a much reduced amount. Likewise, campsites may charge you for parking, and so on.
3. Potential Break Downs
I loved my car in New Zealand.
But it was definitely prone to the odd break down. I broke down twice before the final occasion that really stuffed it!
I got lucky the times before that as well. The battery ran flat first. Thankfully there was someone to help jump leads nearby to kick-start the engine.
Next up, a friend and I were driving (probably slightly too fast) up a steep and winding hill on south island. Suddenly something totally conked out.
Both situations could have ended far worse than they did.
Break downs are frustrating. They’re time consuming and potentially expensive. If you don’t have insurance cover then you’re faced with a dilemma! Moreover, break down somewhere remote, with little traffic, and you could be stranded for some time.
I recommend preparing for the worst! Take jump leads. Have insurance cover (that includes pick-ups). Know how to change a flat tyre. Have spare gas in the car. And so on.
4. Potential Theft
I don’t like travelling with valuables.
Now, generally speaking I have a lot of trust in people. And, so far, I’ve been lucky on the road. I’ve never, touch wood, come to any trouble.
However, it’s always a possibility.
Obviously, a car is a valuable! It’s likely to be the most valuable thing you’re travelling with. Moreover, all of your other valuables are inside it. Wallets, phones, cameras, passports and computers are all there.
The car may be stolen, in which case everything goes with it. Otherwise, they may break in and steal what’s inside.
Either way it’s an awful situation to deal with. It’s unlikely. With a bit of care, the vast majority of people driving overseas will never have any trouble. But it definitely happens and is always a possibility.
5. It Can be Tiring
As much as I love driving, I’m forever reminded of how tiring it can be.
Long hours behind the wheel can take their toll.
Always take regular breaks on long drives. Share the driving if you can. And don’t continue to drive if you’re too tired! You don’t want to injure yourself. Neither do you want to injure other people on the road.
6. Temptation to Go Too Quickly
Speed is a key advantage of travelling by car.
You can get from A to B quicker than most other means of transport.
Incredible surroundings pass unnoticed; special spots get skipped in total unawareness.
The process of travelling is often where the power lies. The actual movement- the time spent on the road- is part of the fun. Driving too quickly makes it harder to feel these rewards.
7. Environmental Considerations
Environmental considerations could go into a larger piece about the advantages and disadvantages of road transport in general.
However, it’s worth mentioning here too.
Let’s face it, driving isn’t great for the environment. That’s particularly true if you’re in the car by yourself and public transport is an alternative option (that you’ve chosen to skip).
Now, this shouldn’t necessarily stop you driving on your travels.
But it’s something to keep in mind. Drive sensibly. Limit your time on the road. Take passengers to reduce the carbon footprint. And so on.
We’ve all got to do our bit to be a little greener. That might be enough of a reason to ditch the car and take the bus instead.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Cars as a Means of Transport While Travelling: Final Thoughts
There you have it: all of the advantages and disadvantages of travelling by car.
I love to travel and I love to drive. That makes driving on my travels a top combination!
That said, it isn’t without its downsides. For every pro, there’s a disadvantage of travelling by car to match. I’ve experienced most of them! However, I wouldn’t change it for anything.
Overall, whether you choose to drive or not is a personal decision. Hopefully, though, this post will help you make up your mind if it’s right for you.
What do you think? What tempts you most about driving a car on your travels? Let me know in the comments.
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